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October 26, 2012

The Health Benefits of Talking Less

Influence

Jeff Cochran

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You know that feeling you get when you’re in a negotiation and you feel like you’re not being heard?  You talk and talk but no matter what you say you feel like the other side isn’t listening.  They may be feigning interest, but you know that they’re not really hearing what you’re saying. You become a little agitated and try even harder to get them to listen.  Eventually you feel like your heart is beating faster and your collar is getting tighter.  Is this all in your head?  No, it’s actually a proven effect.

The following is an excerpt from the book Bullies, Tyrants, and Impossible People by Ron Shapiro, Mark Jankowski, and Jim Dale.  It shows that changes in your emotions can change your physiology and vice versa.

Psychologist James J. Lynch, director of the life Care Health Center and former faculty member at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is one of the first researchers to use a technology that measures patients’ blood pressure, almost word by word, during conversation.  What he discovered is something we have long sensed, that speaking has an identifiable, measurable effect on our bodies, specifically on our cardiovascular systems.  Put simply, talking tends to cause blood pressure to rise and it continues to climb until the speaker senses that he or she has been heard or understood.  Sometimes, of course, that never occurs, leaving the speaking not only frustrated but with markedly increased blood pressure.

Lynch first observed this in crying babies.  Adults react just like crying babies except that we have learned to socialize without crying (most of the time).  As with babies, when adults are heard (or comforted), their blood pressure tends to decrease.  Lynch says, “The biggest misconception. . .is that talking is a mental process.  You. . .talk with every cell in your body.”

The bottom line is that while talking without feeling you are communicating or “getting through” can raise blood pressure (and possibly do physical harm), the converse is also true.  When the relationship between talker and audience or listener is positive, it can be healing.  Both parties communicate and derive a psychological as well as physical benefit.

 

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